Colloquium “How True are Memories? A Sympathetic yet Critical Reflection on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission” May 2, 2013 At 16.15 In Jakobi 2-336, 3rd floor
On May 2, 2013 professor dr Monika Reif-Hülser from the University of Konstanz makes a presentation "How True are Memories? A Sympathetic yet Critical Reflection on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission" in the colloquium held by the Centre for Ethics.The presentation focuses on South Africa and the many ways how the narratives based on memory have worked for reconciliation between the people of different colour. Professor Reif-Hülser analyses the reflection of racial problems in narratives in the example of two novels - J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace (1999) and Gillian Slovo's Red Dust (2000) - and argues that literature has a significant contribution to make to these questions. Monika Reif-Hülser is a professor of British and American studies. During the spring term 2013, she is a guest professor at the Institute of Cultural Research and Fine Arts of the University of Tartu. All are welcome to participate in the discussion! Registration until 30 April via e-mail triin.roos [ät] ut.ee ( or phone 737 5426. ) Below you can find the abstract of prof. Monika Reif-Hülser's presentation. Abstract The years between 1990 and 1994 in South African history are called 'the period of transition'. After Nelson Mandela's release from his 27-years imprisonment on Robben Island in 1990, he had nothing lost of his charisma and his power of political influence. As he had not consented to abstain from armed resistance to new waves of racism against his people, politicians of all colours, clergy and members of the resistance movements feared a wave of violence which might lead to a civil war in the country. In order to turn these energies round to a peaceful political, social and ethical construction of a new state order which could give room for transitional justice, Mandela and his friend Bishop Desmond Tutu implemented the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was in action from 1996 to 2003. Many such commissions followed in other countries after a political overthrow and ensuing precarious human rights' situation, however, with varying success. My talk today will focus on South Africa, on the many ways narratives based on memory worked for reconciliation; but there were also sceptical voices which could not be silenced: "… the antagonism between writer and state is straightforward. The writer tries to tell his truth and the state tries to stifle him." (Coetzee) "It will sometimes be necessary to choose between truth and justice. We should choose truth. Truth does not bring back the dead, but releases them from silence." (José Zalaquett). I will approach these knotted issues with the help of two literary texts, J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace (1999) and Gillian Slovo's Red Dust (2000) and argue that literature has a significant contribution to make to these questions.